We finally left the hill and pushed ahead to run into the first pillboxes in the Siegfried. Company C had gone in the night before and with dynamite and grenades driven the Germans from four forts. Our platoon was sent up the hill to contact C, got too far to the right, investigated some log dugouts and finally got back to the left and located C in the pillboxes and a network of connecting trenches. We discovered then that the log dugouts were still supposed to be in enemy hands -- and we had walked right up to them!
Our squad again managed to get set up in a captured pillbox for some rest and to clean our rifles. But a few hours of moving up and down in the sandy trenches soon had my BAR on the bum again and I doubted if it would fire. I soon found out. In the most forward pillbox that we had taken so far were several of our men and a wounded German. Harader and I were detailed to take two other prisoners out to the pillbox and bring in the wounded man. We reached the place without incident; I had gone inside the doorway (the door had been completely blown off) and Harader was sitting in front of the doorway with a bottle of wine in his hand. Suddenly there was a kr-wham! as a German shell exploded only a few yards in front. Harader was inside -- holding the neck, and that was all, of the bottle. For several minutes we hugged the walls inside the doorway as shell after shell burst in front, throwing dirt and dust into the room. The tank must have had perfect vision of the pillbox and knew we were in it. Time after time we thought the next shell would surely come inside. Twice the tank stopped firing for a minute or so and the third time Harader and I told our krauts to come on and we streaked out the door -- Harader first, the Jerries next and me last. I had just reached the brink of the hill behind the pillbox when the tank fired again. The shell landed behind me and the concussion fairly threw me the rest of the way down the slope. Then to make matters worse, a German machine gun on our left opened up on us as we ran for the trench. I didn't care then what happened to the three prisoners but the two unhurt ones were carrying, dragging, pushing the wounded one into the trench-- as their own machine gun tried to reach us. Harader and I, already in the trench by then, turned to fire back at the MG -- and I found again that the BAR had been fouled up by the sand and dirt. It would not fire.
From Ed DeFoe, December 18, 1991
Ref: Page 16 MUD & GUTS
We stayed a few days at that castle. I remember, Art, there was a chapel in the building, just filled with books. I reached up and pulled one out and guess what? it was an American Boy Scout book!
Then we took off for those pillboxes....and Frank Damanti and (I can't remember who) and I were "selected" to see if those pillboxes were occupied. I was the flank man. We put some kind of a bomb in the door and retreated back to the trench like fast. It took a long time for it to explode but finally it did. There were a couple of krauts someone had flushed out. End of that story!
All hell broke loose then and the Germans had started their first counterattack to retake the fortifications. I picked up a rifle and used it for the remainder of the time we stayed on the hill. Shortly after the attack started the pillbox in which Harader and I had just visited was captured by the Germans. We never knew what happened to the five or six GIs who were there when we left. For three days and nights we stayed in the trenches -- in the daytime we were continually shelled, portions of the trenches were blown in on us, trees splintered over our heads; at night the Jerries tried to creep up on us to throw hand grenades or reach us with flame throwers. We stood in the trenches hour after hour, straining our eyes into the darkness to catch any movement, frequently letting go several rounds just to discourage any venturesome German.
During those three days we had two K rations (two dry meals) and only one canteen of water. An hour's sleep was a luxury and one could hardly recognize his closest buddy for the thin, worried faces, blood-shot eyes and two-weeks' beard. Then one morning word came we were going to be relieved. It was true. The 45th division was moving in. At last we were leaving this hell -- but not before our platoon went out to investigate the first pillbox we had lost. My heart was in my boots then because safety was so near, yet I knew what a patrol might mean. We gathered in the trench, Wards said, "Couple of you go out as scouts." He was looking at me and I said, "Okay" and crawled over the trench. The others followed one by one until we were all moving up the rise toward the pillbox behind a knoll. I crawled past two dead Germans who had been killed the night before by mortar or hand grenades and we finally reached a place we could see. Wards stood up, pulled the pin from a grenade and heaved. He said he had seen some Germans in the trees ahead of us and several of us fired shots in that direction. Then trouble came our way. Germans behind the knoll began throwing grenades at us. By the time the second one landed we were on our way out of there but very fast! Crabtree saw one coming right at him, jumped and hit the ground just as it exploded. All he got was a ringing in the ears and a tiny burn on one pant leg. That was the end of our patrol and a few minutes later we left the hill and started back to civilization....
...There are three things that I think I shall never forget that happened on 489. The first, and most outstanding, I guess, is a smell. Burnt powder seems to have a kind of sweet, sickening smell, almost like flowers in a funeral parlor. That smell clung to the hilltop day and night. The night I remember it most was once when I was standing in the trench waiting for the Germans to come at us again. There was a dead GI stretched out on the top of the trench behind my back, stiff and cold. The powder smell was very strong and that night it made an indelible mark on my memory. To this day that smell will come back to me and I remember the horror of waiting there in the darkness, just waiting, and the dead soldier behind me.
Another memory brings a smile. As I said before, our K rations were few and far between. I remember how Black and I, lying in the trench eating our small can of cheese, cursing the Germans when a shell came in, not for endangering our lives particularly, but because the bursts too often threw dirt all over our food. But we just brushed it off and ate on. We had no water to mix with our orange powder or bullion but tried to eat it anyway, soon giving it up when we found it made us even more thirsty.
The other thought is a reminder of how hungry I must have been. When the 45th came in to relieve us, all the men were carrying three K rations each -- how our eyes bulged and our mouths watered! I remember begging a cracker from one fellow, trying not to show my eagerness to get something to chew on. It's funny now but it wasn't then.
From Ed DeFoe, December 18,1991
Ref: Pages 20 & 21 MUD & GUTS
Wasn't it odd how we got so when we heard those 88s coming in we could just about tell where they were going to land. When you're so beat there was no use to move out of the way if it isn't going to land in your pocket. And those so-called marching boots or whatever, like wearing just overshoes....your feet would sweat like mad and freeze when you stopped walking...sounds like a bitch from the Stars and Stripes!
Those clothes you mentioned --- they didn't have my size! Boy! how they didn't have clothes to fit a 139-lb GI. My pants almost went around me twice. I finally found a BAR strap and made sort of a belt.
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